OFM awards 2014 best restaurant: the Ledbury

Brett Graham is obsessive about pleasing his customers. And OFM readers have returned the compliment

There is a small moment towards the end of my meal at the restaurant voted the best in the country by the readers of OFM that sums up the whole experience. Darren McHugh, the restaurant manager, places a bowl containing two little orbs of sugar-dusted loveliness on the table. “I could call them beignet if I wanted to sound clever,” he says in his soft Irish lilt. “But we all know they’re donuts.” And off he floats to attend to the next happy table. The donuts, back filled with their own silky fig jam, manage the difficult trick of being both comfort food and technically thrilling at the same time. That sums up the Ledbury. It’s an ambitious gastronomic restaurant with ideas well below its station. Sure, it has Michelin stars; two of them as it happens. Though, uniquely, chef and co-owner Brett Graham has to think very hard to recall which years they were acquired. It has been garlanded with numerous other awards. And no, it is not cheap. The evening à la carte is £90. (Lunch set menus are cheaper at £45.)

But none of that buys you pointless flash, heel-clicking or outbreaks of gold leaf. “The food’s got to be real,” Graham says, over a coffee before evening service, in the relaxed dining room, with its shades of olive and deep polished wood. “We have to walk the tightrope of deliciousness with a modernist touch. I want people to feel they could eat here once a month, not feel that it’s too full-on for that.”

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